Ross River bridge can be repaired, says engineer

A Whitehorse structural engineer says the Ross River suspension bridge can be saved, even though the Yukon Government says the 70-year-old bridge is in imminent danger of collapse and must be demolished.

Civil engineer says 70-year-old suspension bridge is an 'engineering treasure'

The Yukon government says it will save the 70-year-old suspension bridge across the Pelly River at Ross River, Yukon. (courtesy of Barry Kulan)

A Whitehorse structural engineer says the Ross River suspension bridge can be saved, even though the Yukon government says the 70-year-old bridge is in imminent danger of collapse and must be demolished.

Robert Wills, a civil engineer who designs suspension bridges, says he's disappointed that the government has decided to tear down the 300-metre-long Ross River bridge.

"[It's] a wonderful piece of our heritage, and it is an engineering treasure," he said. "It is a tourist draw, it is item No. 7 on the Yukon passport. And it is quite a piece of engineering, very delightful to look at."

Wills says the bridge can be stabilized right now with guy wires. Then he says the wooden deck could be lowered onto the river once it freezes, and more complete repairs done then. 

"Everything's repairable," he said. "You can get up there and put in a new member or make sure the bridge is safe. You can replace the cables; you can maintain the wood; you can put in galvanized bolts. With these structures, they're maintained and repaired all over the world." 

Wills wants to know why the Yukon government delayed repairing the bridge after a study four years ago, and again in 2011.

He also questions why the bridge has been rated at today's standard to bear a load of 600 people. He says there are many heritage structures that have modified standards, in recognition of their historic value.    

Wills says rating it to hold 600 people would mean the entire population of Ross River — and then some — would be on the bridge at the same time.

He says that's very unlikely and recommends rating it as a restricted access pedestrian bridge, with a load of no more than six people at a time.

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